Nick Clegg: Sorry no longer the hardest word


It is, they say, the hardest word. Nevertheless, after more than two years of resisting, Nick Clegg has decided that it is time he said it, said it clearly and said it directly.

In a party political broadcast filmed at his home the Liberal Democrat leader speaks directly to camera and with real intensity about a decision which he believes has become a weight around his and his party's ankles - the decision to break his word by first signing, then breaking a pledge to vote against increases in student tuition fees.

"There's no easy way to say this: We made a pledge, we didn't stick to it - and for that I am sorry. When you've made a mistake you should apologise.

"But more importantly - most important of all - you've got to learn from your mistakes. And that's what we will do.

"I will never again make a pledge unless as a party we are absolutely clear about how we can keep it"

The Lib Dem leader says that it was "a mistake" to make a pledge that couldn't be delivered when there was no money to pay for it and when his party was only likely to be in power in coalition with Labour or the Conservatives - both of whom were committed to increase tuition fees.

He is equally clear, though, that he is not apologising for the policy he backed in government which, he believes, will come to be seen as fair.

This is quite a contrast to what he said to me in an interview in December 2010.

"To govern is to choose particularly when there is not very much money and we have chosen and I am not going to apologise for this for one minute."

This broadcast has been released a few days before the start of his party's annual conference. Nick Clegg knows that it will provoke disbelief, anger and ridicule from many but hopes it will start to enable him to win back trust from some of those who once believed in him.

I'm told that many close to Nick Clegg reminded him of the old dictum - never apologise, never explain - but he decided that saying sorry was his best hope of persuading voters to listen to the "right things" his party stands for instead of only remembering what he now acknowledges was a mistake.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    The banks are having to pay out for mis-selling. About time the likes of sleezy Clegg is made to pay compensation for mis-selling election promises.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    If he is truly sorry he should resign, or at least pull his party out of the Coalition. That way he can do some good by allowing the country to rid themselves of Cameron, Osborne, Gove and company.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Right for Clegg to apologise for breaking such a prominent election pledge - but come on, which idiot honestly believed the country could afford to scrap tuition fees, let alone keep them at the level they were at?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    So a party makes the public a promise in order to gain political power.
    They fail to deliver on the promise, or break their promise.
    Result: They apologise to the public but keep their power?

    My employer would most likely dismiss me if I did that to them.
    My friends, family and community would have the right to do the same if they wished.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Oh Nick.

    It is simple.

    You promised to vote against an increase in tuition fees.

    You then voted to increase tuition fees.

    You lied to the electorate.

    I will never ever ever vote LibDem again. My Labour voting Grandfather always used to tell me "Never vote for the 3rd party, they will promise you anything to get your vote knowing they will never have to keep their word"

    How prophetic...

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    He has just said good bye to his job as leader of the Lib Dems. Cleggie has become a total joke and he definitely won`t leading his party at the time of the next election. Utterly, utterly spineless. DC could get his own back for his lack of support and shuffle him off to the Lords when the Lib Dems finally comes to their senses and kick him out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    I am sorry that I joined a Coalition without consulting the people. I am sorry I masquerade as a democrat whilst I take part in a toff millionaire cabinet in an unelected govt

    I am sorry I helped the Tories make cuts the people oppose. I am sorry I masquerade as a fair politician whilst the poor suffer from cuts, lower wages & unemployment whilst the rich get tax cuts- all caused by my govt

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Laws, Alexander, Cable etc also have their fingerprints all over this tawdry piece of political gerrymandering to hoover up the student votes. Clegg deserves everything he gets but the others shouldn't be allowed to slope off unscathed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I voted LibDem at the last election. Looking at what it resulted in I can't think of any other act in my entire life that I've felt more ashamed of.
    Clegg can apologise until doomsday. His party will never see my vote again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    21. StormySan - And I will never again vote for the Lib Dems after they proved that they were liars
    Appreciate the sentiment (I really do) but then who's left? The 'Definitely/Maybe No Third Runway' Party, or the 'Goodbye-to-boom-and-bust' Party, or someone more 'fundamentalist', and probably useless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    That's all right then. Nick says sorry so we'll all vote for him. The slipperiest man in HoC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Knowing how soft the electorate is, "sorry" probably will appease them. I'd like something with a bit more substance than "sorry" - like actually holding these people to account in a real way. It's why a lot of people think politics is ugly. Politicians lying on the campaign trail is my #1 pet hate. I think when people are caught blatantly doing it, there should be some sort of real comeback.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    "I will never again make a pledge unless as a party we are absolutely clear about how we can keep it"

    If you make a pledge then not keep it it`s not a pledge, it`s a lie. Trust is a thing to be cherished and you Mr Clegg betrayed the trust of not only the people but your party as well. You will not be given a second chance to lie to us again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    "I will never again make a pledge unless as a party we are absolutely clear about how we can keep it"

    And I will never again vote for the Lib Dems after they proved that they were liars. I remember how he tried to explain this away when it first happened.

    Too little, too late.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    A once decent party, led by a leader of deceit and to certain electorial oblivion. I'm not sure how he can look in the mirror on a morning, let alone his party in the eye. Unfortunately his own MPs want shut of him but daren't. He's no honour and as long as they keep him, neither have they, or their party. I will never vote for them again as long as he's there. Go Clegg and go now, show some guts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    This is the trouble with politicians, they're caught out in a lie or they break a pledge and they think saying sorry makes it all right. They don't think anything else is necessary like resigning. There needs to be some way that the public can punish the politician when this type of thing happens & I don't mean every 4 or 5 years, preferably within say 2 months.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    So he's sorry that he broke a promise, but when asked about it, he's not sorry about what he signed on for, this thing that he broke a promise to do.
    So I dont get it. What is he actually sorry for? You cant say you're sorry and then turn around and say "but actually we did the right thing".
    I dont think he's sorry at all. He just wants the criticism to stop. False apologies wont achieve this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Saying sorry seems to be easier these days, to those with power, behaving in a way that does not necessitate it seems a lot harder for them to master.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Clegg has gone from the golden boy of british politicians to being a pariah.

    He thinks the worst thing he has done is to lie about student fees ???!!!

    He put the party of evil into power, resulting in an economic melt down and bringing misery and fear to the liives of millions of ordinary people.

    When is he going to apologise for that ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Anyone who voted Lib Dem for the first time in the last election will never vote Lib Dem for the rest of their lives. nice one Nick.


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